AUSTIN (KXAN) — As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, a countless number of Americans are finding themselves “pivoting,” or finding new ways to navigate city guidelines and state orders while still carrying on with their lives.

The City of Austin Economic Development Department took notice and is responding with a podcast.

The department announced a new live stream video podcast on Jan. 13, aptly titled “The Pivot.” It’s intended to offer a virtual conversation space for east Austin residents and others.

Host T.J. Owens said the show is meant to speak to communities that are often overlooked.

“We can have [a guest] that may be able to tie-in to a community of color or really speak to a segment of the community that may have some historical marginalization that we can speak to how to close those gaps.”

Gaps such as closing the “information divide” and reducing the “access of service” hurdle, he said.

But the podcast is also meant to include Austin as a whole.

“We understand that these are issues that affect our community-at-large,” Owens said. “Being able to tell those stories and narratives, and make sure that people understand this is just not a telling of Austin’s story from one point of view. We want to make sure that equity and inclusion are at the forefront of all of our activities.”

(African American Cultural and Heritage Facility)

Owens is also the program manager at the African American Cultural and Heritage Facility. The facility has had its own challenges during the pandemic. It’s been inoperable for most of 2020, he said. The podcast is one way his team is doing their own “pivot” to continue engaging their audiences.

“The Pivot” will highlight collaboration with a focus on local businesses, the creative community and Austin culture. Each episode will also feature performances from local Austin musicians.
Sylnovia Holt Rabb, the Economic Development Department’s acting director, is excited about this new effort. She said she’s glad the podcast will continue telling Austin’s story of the African-American experience.

“These are critical times for communicating and storytelling,” she said. “Adding this opportunity to tune in virtually continues our efforts to share vital information with residents and receive community feedback about City programs and services.”

A mural outside the facility (African American Cultural and Heritage Facility)

The African American Cultural and Heritage Facility will live stream the podcast biweekly from its Facebook page. You can find the podcast on its “Events” page by clicking on the “More” tab at the top of the main page. The series will air every first and third Wednesday of the month beginning on Feb. 3 at 7 p.m. It is free to join.

The first episode will feature a conversation with Sharon Mays, owner of Baby Greens. The CEO will discuss how her business successfully pivoted with the help of City resources after Austin’s initial COVID-19 emergency declaration.

“It can speak to her growth,” Owens said. “Not just from a humanistic or life perspective, but even her journey as an entrepreneur. When you can interweave and connect the dots between those two, it allows you to connect to the person, to the individual, and to realize that you’re not so much different from that person who has made those strides, or you may look as being a trailblazer, within the community.”

He hopes the podcast serves as an inspiration to others through the guests they feature.

“It just really connects on a different level when you can speak to someone who has actually gone through that journey, utilize certain services and benefits, and been able to make those work for them. If you know those same tools are available to you, why not take advantage of them?”

You can visit the African American Cultural and Heritage Facility’s website for more information, including a schedule of the upcoming episodes. If anyone is interested in being or recommending a featured artist or guest, you can contact the facility’s team’s email.

Future episodes will include topics about the History of Black Austin, health and wellness, and the creative and entrepreneurship sectors. You can learn more about the department and facility on its YouTube page playlist.